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The Will to Power over Things

"Schopenhauer gave us the WILL; Nietzsche gave us the WILL TO POWER; I give you the WILL TO POWER OVER THINGS." - Harry Hooton.

Things are bad. But that is okay, for we are good.

On Monday, March 16, at Dancehouse in North Carlton, Arthur and Corinne Cantrill presented their film Harry Hooton, and John Harrison presented his film Homage. These film-makers are Super-8 Group members, but quite obviously the screening of an 83 minute 16mm film and a 30 minute Super-8 one is outside the Super-8 Group's current parameters. Congratulations to the film-makers for organising the screening.

Things are bad. But we make them good.

I admire the Cantrills so much, and I lament the fact that Australia has not produced anyone the equivalent in the narrative sphere (which I favor over the non-narrative one). The Cantrills' film-making life has been one of pure genius - close to 40 years now of both artistic and organisational activity. And whilst they spend a lot of their time these days whingeing about the poor state of film culture (and rightly so!), they don't fall into elegy. Which, of course, is one of the privileges of genius: no self-pity, no self-aggrandisement. Badmouthing, yes; inactivity and negativity, no.

Things have never been better. And yet, things have never been worse.

It's somewhat of a tragedy that the Cantrills' work from the 70's has not screened much recently. I've seen some of it, and I definitely prefer it (and the 80's films In This Life's Body, Myself When Fourteen, The Berlin Apartment, Projected Light) to the 90's Super-8 work (although I quite like the intimate light play in some of the recent works, a play suited to the Super-8 medium).

I had never seen Harry Hooton (1970) before. Two years ago (thanks to another inspirational figure, Dirk De Bruyn), I also managed to see Albie Thoms' two experimental features, Marinetti (1969) and Sunshine City (1973), for the first time. Being feature-length is important, and not because it conforms to some industrial/commercial standard. Indeed, these films, being feature-length, act as subversions of that standard.

You have to love these films for the sheer energy and joy they exude. I sometimes wish that I had been part of that 1965-1975 period. Groups such as Ubu, the Feminist Film Workers, and the Melbourne Film-makers Co-Op hold a fascination for me. The Super-8 Group, the 1985-1998 period, pales in comparison.

Things were better in the good old days.

The Cantrills' film is a paean to Harry Hooton, a poet-philosopher who died in 1961. Hooton's philosophy was a materialist one, revolving around notions of the divinity of physical matter, of attaining meaning and joy from the shaping (artistic or otherwise) of that matter. And, in the process, giving the metaphysical boot to any woolly humanist/idealist ideas.

But are materialism and humanism that different? Isn't artistic shaping a "humanist" activity? Isn't human flesh a "material"? And isn't a film like Harry Hooton a product of love, a humanist-like memorial from one set of humans to another? Even a strictily materialist film (i.e. hand-drawn, scratched, etc.) has its own spirituality, and engenders spiritual effects in the viewer.

"People don't grow up, they grow down. And they're determined to keep others down."

"That character requires suffering is a lie. Character requires joy!" - Harry Hooton.

I don't know Harry Hooton; all I know are things.
Life is a thing, and it's the thing we must always look to shape, manipulate, love. Only love can shape.

Having John Harrison's Homage on the same program was a brilliant move. This is the flip side of the Cantrills' film: ambient, moody, dense black and white, a haunted soundscape. I'm not sure how the film relates to Hooton's thoughts, but that's what makes it even more interesting. It has an undeniable presence about it, despite essaying nothingness.

Anyone for anarchism?
Anyone for art?
Count me in.
That's just the way things are.

© Bill Mousoulis 1998.
This report first appeared in Super-8.